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They may look luscious and juicy but Cotoneaster berries contain toxins, which means that many people consider them poisonous. (There’s a good article about whether or not they really are poisonous on the Poison Garden website.) Yet the blackbirds, thrushes and woodpigeons seem to enjoy them and, when the more desirable berries like rowan have been consumed, these nutritious berries help to sustain the birds through the lean winter months.

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Roath Park has several cotoneaster trees that are covered in bright red and dull yellow berries at the moment so, as I walked home from the train station this afternoon I kept an eye out for feeding birds. And I got lucky.

The hefty woodpigeons were easy to spot as their clambering made the branches shake a lot. The blackbirds were more delicate but also more entertaining, as they performed their aerial trapeze, clinging to branches and stretching as far sideways or upside down as they could to reach the furthest fruit. The bonus of the day was a group of about five redwings also feeding spasmodically in these trees. They were more skittish, flitting quickly on to the very top branches for some rapid pecking but, always watchful, flitting away again to higher nearby trees as people walked past along the pathway.

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